Arguably, and statistically too, Chardonnay is the most popular white wine in the world. The central eastern French region of Burgundy may be its homeland, but this is a wine that’s accrued global acclaim, with production stretching across both Old World and New World countries. So what exactly is Chardonnay wine, and what is it about this varietal that has made it such a popular choice?
What is Chardonnay?
Chardonnay wine is made from the green-skinned chardonnay grape, a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc varieties, and the most widely planted white grape variety in the world.
The palatable flavours in white Chardonnay come from the grape itself, as well as the winemaking process, and the way it is aged. But when it comes to pinning down what chardonnay wine tastes like, there’s more to it than meets the eye, or indeed the palate.
What does Chardonnay white wine taste like?
Perhaps one of the greatest attractions of the Chardonnay grape for winemakers is that it provides something of a blank canvas. Because it’s during the winemaking process that the unique character and flavour profile of each wine is defined.
Whether your Chardonnay wine is oaked or unoaked is key to getting to grips with what types of flavours you can expect.
Oak-aged chardonnays tend to be warm, full-bodied, rich and rounded, often presenting flavours of butter, toast and home baked spices such as vanilla, cloves and nutmeg. The older the barrel, the more likely the wine is to take on a fuller texture, as well as these distinctive flavours. And then there’s the climate factor.
Chardonnay white wine from warmer climes such as Australia, California, Chile, South Africa and Argentina, will often taste positively tropical, treating the palate to zingy smacks of pineapple, peach and mango.
California white chardonnay such as Black’s Station hits the button for ripe crispness, or there’s the nectarine bouquet and honey dew melon palate of Corryton Burge, a lively South Australian Chardonnay balanced by the richness of creamy shortbread.
Chardonnay white wine from the cooler regions is often leaner in flavour, with apple or pear more likely to take the fruity lead. The coolest Chardonnay vineyards, such as those in Chablis, Champagne and Germany, for example, have a tendency to lean towards green apple aromas.
Unoaked Chardonnay wine on the other hand frequently comes as a surprise to the uninitiated, often reminiscent of the zesty styles of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, but minus the ‘green’ edginess.
Chardonnay tasting notes may also be attributed to the soils of the vineyard. Chablis white Chardonnay for example can be very mineral-led, with hints of chalk and blossom as well as high levels of acidity.
If you’re looking for something that strikes a balance, the best Chardonnay wine for you may well be a white Burgundy, where the minerality of the Old World meets the power of the New World, creating a rich surge of flavour, followed by a refreshing length on the palate.
Or perhaps you might be tempted by a Petit Chablis, a wine made from grapes grown just outside the region proper, where a citrus bouquet and saline minerality encounter a buttery, toasty complexity.
Interesting facts about chardonnay wine
Now, if you’re keen to impress your friends, your clients or your boss next time you’re indulging in a glass of chardonnay wine together, here are some interesting facts to scribble on your hankie…
Champagne is made from Chardonnay
Chardonnay is one of the three main grapes used to make Champagne, and it also plays a starring role in Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier too. A Blanc de Blanc Champagne is almost certainly 100% Chardonnay, and many New World sparkling wines feature a good measure of Chardonnay too.
Chardonnay once grew amongst thistles
The Chardonnay grape originated in a small village called Mâconnais in the Burgundy region of central eastern France, where monks planted the grape. However, the grape itself is said to have originated from the Latin word Cardonnacum, which means, ‘where the thistle grows’.
Chablis is 100% Chardonnay
If you’re quaffing Chablis, you’re most certainly drinking 100% Chardonnay. Chablis wines rarely display oak aged characteristics. On the contrary, they are more citrus and blossom led on the nose, with high minerality and salinity. Chablis is one of those Chardonnay white wines that tingles the tongue, which as we’ve already discovered, is all down to the qualities of the soil and the climate, as well as the traditions of the winemaking region.
Buying Chardonnay wine?
The Oddbins Chardonnay range is certain to have just what you’re after. Not sure which is the best Chardonnay wine for you? Our team is on hand to help you make the perfect choice. Contact us via Live Chat, e-mail or by calling 0800 328 23 23.